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October 2007

2007 Calendar of Events

October 19-21 Re-enactment at Dollinger Farm, Minooka, IL
December 1 Christmas Party

Remember that you can always find more event details and directions at the unit website, http://www.64thill.org/events/. We also have info on several Civil War dances/formal balls held throughout the year in the area.

No, You're Not Mistaken...
By Melina McVicker

...because the postman has not been stealing your mail and you really have been getting all of your emails, the Dispatch just hasn't been appearing as regularly as it has in the past. That is my fault, in part, but mostly it is because I have had nothing to print.  The disappearance of the Dispatch, too, has seemed to have had little impact on its readers since I have not heard or received a single complaint about how it seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. That's sad, so please help me, if you can, and don't just toss this into your nearest circular file upon some old eggshells and this morning coffee grounds. READ THIS! And if you have something to tell the rest of the 64th crew, please write me and let me know and then the Dispatch will begin re-appearing every month just like in the good ol' days. You can always contact me at: mcvicker@mc.net, or write me at:

Melina McVicker
21106 West Coral Rd.
Marengo, Il 60152

I hope to hear from you soon.

Door's Open/Fall Out
By Ken Gough

I haven't done a Fall Out for quite a while and this month's subject applied to both military and civilian so I thought I'd give them equal billing.

Time. Some say it's the bane of our existence.

One of the things we hear so often from the public is how nice it would be to live back when time meant so much less. Not true. Through for most people time was measured in hours not minutes or even seconds like how we do today, time was important nonetheless. Think of railroads. In a day before radios, keeping track of time was a major way to avoid accidents. In fact time was the cause most often related in train to train accidents. Spot checks were made of conductor's watches with fines imposed if they were not set to the right time. If I recall, they had to be within three seconds. But I digress.

Now what does this mean to us today?


A period watch in good running condition is going to cost you the same, if not more, than a musket. I'm talking about an original musket. As there are no reproduction of period watches this makes this purchase a decision of no small importance.

By far the most common factory made watch produced during the Civil War was from the American Watch Co. at Waltham Massachusetts. This was a rugged, accurate watch and can still be found in working condition at many antique shops. In the Chicago area we like to believe the National Watch Co. in Elgin was a major contributor during the war. Sadly, this was not true. Although workman enticed from Waltham arrived in 1864 and the factory was erected in 1865 they spent the first couple years building jigs and fixtures needed for watch production. The first complete watch wasn't produced until April 1, 1867. Honorable mention has to include the thousands of small shops and imports. Swiss watches, of course, getting all the glory.

So what are your options?

First and most economical is the quartz watch sold by the hundreds on sutlers' row. They go for between twenty and thirty dollars. These will pass the ten-foot rule with the added bonus of care free use. Take your hit. Fall on it. Drop it down the port-o-john while hitching up your trousers. It's dispensable. But they're lightweight with a plastic feel to them. Most have an unsatisfying sterile click-click sound. Kinda the difference between listening to a steam locomotive blow by and having Choo-Choo Charlie run past. Still the dollar issue is very compelling.

Second, and I'm not advocating this but I see it so often that I have to mention it. If for no other reason than so I can throw rocks at it. Sneaking out that cell phone to catch the time. My feeling is these folks should be dropped head-first into the port-o-john next to that quartz watch. Next in the 'No-No' line are the bracelet or strap watches. What we now call 'wrist watches' didn't actually come out until around 1910. This was considered a ladies jewelry item and men didn't start wearing them until WWI. Laying in a mud filled trench did wonders for pocket watches. Even the ten-foot rule can't cover these. Enough said.

Third. Do without. The only people who really need a watch are officers. For the rest of you: listen for and learn the bugle calls. Yeah, I know, that's going to happen real soon.

Last, carry an original. Now we have to break this option down into a few subgroups: War time (this includes Pre-war), post-war, key wind, and stem wind.

War time: Handle with care. This is not an item you want to fall on or carry around in a hot, sweaty pocket. My advice: Use it only for living history and when it's battle time switch it out for that quartz hummer.

Post-war: This is carrying a watch that was produced after the war but is a model that was in used during the war. This is probably the best option as these watches continued in production some time for ten to twenty years. This also drops the cost of the watch to repo musket level. This is the route I chose to go. I carry an Elgin key wind with a silver hunter style case. The same model produced when the factory opened. This model was manufactured until 1876. The watch I carry was made in 1875. This was confirmed by serial number search of the Elgin Watch database. Note: The National Watch Co. changed its name in 1874 to the Elgin National Watch Co.. This can help you when dating Elgin watches.

Key vs. Stem wind (the period term was 'crown wind'). Key wind was the watch universally used during the war. It is generally accepted that stem wind was introduced around 1873. However, the difference in price could be a couple hundred dollars. Again, think of the ten-foot rule.

Something that confuses the issue of the period watches is the fact that many watchmakers made only the movement (the guts, sometimes the face and hands). These were then shipped to jewelers who made the cases to fit the needs of the customers. Learning this fact alone can help when looking at a display case of original watches that look similar but different at the same time. Case in point: my watch case is stamped '1967'. This is the serial number of the case. The person I bought it from thought it was the year of manufacture. Hence the excellent price I paid for it. Heah, I gave him what he asked for. Knowledge is power.

A little on the care and feeding of your new, er, old watch. If it was wound down it may not start right away when you wind it up. Don't tap or shake it to get it going. Gently rock it back and forth in a rolling motion to get the balance spinning. Open the back cover as little as possible and NEVER when dust is blowing around. Should it stop don't go stabbing around in the movement with a pin or pick. That's not going to work, have someone with the tools and knowledge work on it instead. Take it to a reputable watch repair service every other year for cleaning.

I hope this helps you. If not in solving your own time problem maybe just adding to your store of useless bits of information.

This size #18 Elgin Watch carried by Ken was a style popular from the early 1850s.


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